African Star v Midwest Cities Query

MAC does answer maritime accident-related questions from time to time so here’s another one:

Miriam asks:

“If you could help me to get articles and newsletters on the African Star.
The African star collided with a petroleum tanker back in 1968.
I was 12 at that time.
Thank you.
Miriam”

Probably the most complete account can be found in Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting & Fire Safety: A Comprehensive Training & Reference Manual , published in 1990, now out of print.  A second hand copy will cost between $40-$70 in hardback and about $10 in paperback (1993 edition).

If you want to do serious research, look up the National Archives Marine Board case files for 1946-1968, record group 26 of the US Coast Guard records, where you’ll find copies of much of the original material.

The following brief description is from the  Toronto Marine Historical Society magazine The Scanner:

“Early in the morning of March l6th, while proceeding down the Mississippi River outbound from New Orleans for New Zealand, the Farrell Line steamer, AFRICAN STAR, a C3 built in 1946, collided with a tug pushing two fuel barges. There was an immediate explosion as the gas tanks of the barges split wide open and spilled their lethal load across the decks of the AFRICAN STAR which was immediately engulfed in flames from stem to stern. Many of the crewmen jumped into the icy waters of the Mississippi and were picked up by rescue boats.”

African Star was a 7,971 gross tonnes freighter which collided at 16 knots with a 264 foot fuel barge, Intercity 11, one of two being pushed by the barge tug Midwest Cities, on March 16, 1968 at around 0340 on the Mississippi River. Each vessel had radar and each had been advised by radio of the presence of the other. The radars were not being continuously monitored and each vessel operated on a different VHF radio frequency.

Both vessels carried pilots who clearly saw the navigation lights of the other vessel. Additionally, there was a lookout on the bow of the African Star.

Each bridge team gave such differing accounts of the event that is was not possible to reconstruct what actually happened.

The collision lead to a cloud of flammable vapour engulfing the African Star and igniting.

Two of 11 passengers on the African Star died, 9 were injured.  Some 15 out of 52 crewmen died,four were logged missing, 31 injured, only two escaped unharmed.

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